Ouch! Yes, that baguette at Venice airport was €5, just less than £5 at today’s exchange rate. Add this and other costs up over a long weekend and you’ve got an expensive European city break.
Cities within the eurozone such as Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Venice have had to fight harder for British visitors and have had a slow start to the year. For these destinations, cafe culture and eating out are an integral part of a holiday and the fact that these experiences are now more expensive has had an impact on bookings.
As a result, operators are seeing better deals coming from all eurozone city destinations, which are driving sales. A Thomas Cook spokesperson said: “It is the first time for many years that we have seen hoteliers in Paris, Rome and Venice providing offers – but this is paying off as the classic destinations are performing well.”
Offers include three nights for the price of two, discounted rooms and room upgrades. Thomas Cook is even offering a free helicopter transfer to the hotel for one of its Monaco packages.
Shearings senior product manager Sophie Cann said: “Most hoteliers are now offering reduced rates to stimulate trade, particularly during the corporate low season in July and August.”
For instance, Athens is empty during the summer months, the locals have gone to the beach and the city is less busy, therefore the top-end hotels offer excellent rates.
Planet Holidays commercial manager Harry Kyrillou said: “Prices for a three-night stay at the St George Lycabettus Boutique Hotel in July can cost as little as £549 per person. Go in August and you could be having the same break for £449.”
Looking for low prices on the ground? Check out our feature on non-eurozone city breaks
Good service from the UK
It also helps that there is a good market for competitive fares on low-cost and scheduled airlines for the eurozone. This has been buoyed by new routes from the UK, such as Aer Lingus flights from Gatwick to Munich, Nice and Vienna, and Lufthansa Italia’s service from Heathrow to Milan.
Eurostar has also increased capacity and fares are available from £59 return, all of which helps drive accommodation-only sales for agents. Although this has not helped Inghams, which cancelled its summer city-break programme, blaming a lack of demand.
Jetset sales director Adrian Smyth said: “Now there are so few tour operators offering European city breaks, agents appreciate being able to offer tailor-made packages, such as seat-only or hotel-only.” Some downgrading is occurring but it is the length of stay that is being affected, rather than the star rating of the hotels booked.
Agents are also being encouraged to persuade customers to pre-book excursions and visits to attractions to save money. For instance in Paris, Monet’s Gardens and the Chateau de Versailles that are more time consuming to visit independently are popular packages.
Attraction World marketing director Tony Seaman said: “This means that it is easier to budget since all expenses are known before the client travels.”
Travellers are now more likely to invest in a decent guidebook to arrange their own sightseeing and eat in restaurants frequented by locals to save money. Some are even looking at renting apartments while they are away.
P&V online marketing manager Nick Vowles said: “Market research suggests that people are increasingly turning towards self-catering apartments to save money on their holiday, particularly within the eurozone.”
The internet is also allowing customers to search more vigorously for good city-break deals. Kayak.com director of business development Annie Wilson said: “We are finding users are visiting the site more often and spending more time on the site. Users are more likely to use features such as Flexible Search and Fare Alerts to find the lowest price.”
People are also booking closer to the time of departure and waiting for deals. Kirker Holidays director of sales Ted Wake said: “Bookings made within eight weeks of departure are up on previous years by around 2%, with clients making their holiday decisions later.”
- Holding out for the best deals
- Travelling during the off-season to take advantage of lower prices
- Staying with friends or relatives
- Being more flexible on departure times
- …but refusing to compromise on the quality of their experience
Dertour’s Berlin campaign
On May 8 Dertour launched a new Berlin campaign for travel agents which highlights a Berlin City Break Special from £259 per person.
The price includes two nights in a three-star hotel on a bed and breakfast basis, audio and video self-guided Berlin Wall tour and return flights with Lufthansa.
To receive a free poster for your shop window email firstname.lastname@example.org (020 7290 1111).
Cresta has a three-night break in Brussels, staying at the three-star Hotel Leopold, departing on July 22, from £165 per person. This includes travel with Eurostar and is based on twin-share in a standard room on a bed and breakfast basis. (bctagent.co.uk, 0844 800 7017)
Kirker Holidays is offering three nights for the price of two at the deluxe five-star Gritti Palace in Venice. The break costs from £898 per person, based on twin-share – a saving of £214 per person. The price includes flights, private transfers, water taxis, accommodation with breakfast, guaranteed entrance to the Doge’s Palace and guide notes to sightseeing. (020 7593 2283)
Superbreak is also offering three nights for the price of two at the Novotel Paris Tour Eiffel, until May 29, and between July 10 and August 28. Prices based on a three-night stay start from £54 per person per night including breakfast. (superbreak.com/agents, 0871 221 4444)
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